To Read or Not to Read? There Is No Question

Being a full-time teacher, I fully understand the expectations of having to think about 2983 important matters at once: has Matthew made 6 steps of accelerated progress in writing since term 1? Did Lucy remember to go to her dentist appointment at 12.43pm on Tuesday? Why has this child not included any punctuation for parenthesis in her balanced argument? Did I remember to shut the front door when I left for work this morning? 

As hectic as teaching can be, there is one element which is the ultimate priority in my classroom: reading. An entire realm of magic available at the fingertips of our children. Our job – as educators, parents, families, friends – is to unlock the key to that realm, to enable the next generation to access any world they wish to find themselves in. Not such an easy feat: so how do we go about it?

1) Passion

Showing the children you are passionate about reading yourself is vital. Like anything, if we witter on about something half-heartedly, not only are we discouraging children from taking part, we are belittling its importance: something which should never happen when it comes to books. When we talk about reading, we should show our enthusiasm, our excitement. If we count down to the new release from our favourite author or show frustration when being left on a cliff-hanger, children will more than likely reciprocate our feelings and echo our love.

2) Breathe New Life into Your Bookshelves

To me, authors are magicians: they create entire worlds through a culmination of words on a page. Butterflies in your stomach, an increased heart-rate as the tension builds and the story unfolds… how can those little marks on paper evoke such heightened emotions? We all have our favourite authors in the classroom, the classics – the Roald Dahl’s, the Enid Blyton’s, the Michael Morpurgo’s. As incredible as these authors are, we must not forget to breathe new life into our bookshelves. What we enjoyed reading as a child might not be what hooks the next generation, and we need to involve the children in these choices. 

Children are most engaged with books when they get to choose a selection themselves, so if possible, budget for this. Provide each year group with a small pot of money, research some new releases or current favourites and send off the order (however be prepared for 30 voices asking if the delivery is in, every day for the next 2 weeks).  

Don’t be afraid to take risks! You might not have read every new release on Waterstone’s website, but they must be there for a reason. Research new authors with the children; go on that journey of discovery with them and you never know which books may end up on your bookshelves. 

3) Talk About Books!

Conversation: not only a life skill, but an essential part of our reading world. Encouraging children to discuss their favourite books, their favourite authors – not only does it provide the opportunity for them to talk books, it gives them time to talk. To have free-flowing conversations where they can show excitement, provide their opinion and listen to others. These are basic skills in our adult lives that not all children are exposed to at home, so it’s our job to provide it in the classroom. 

4) Read to Your Children

Just like anything, we teach one another a new skill through modelling: what makes reading any different? Not only should we listen to our children read, but it is crucial they listen to us. Hearing the accents, intonation, expression in narrative – none of these skills can be achieved through blindly tackling page after page as a child. Choose a book which even as an adult, you love. Your passion and enthusiasm for the words on that page will bounce off the walls of your classroom and be absorbed by the children in front of you. Choose the right book, and who knows, you might create a memory that those children will never forget. 

And Most Importantly?

Live, breathe and love books.

If you enjoyed ready about Rebecca's views on reading, then you may be interested in reading Mindfulness - Medicine for the Mind, a blog by an Early Years teacher about wellbeing in children and how you can help them with it.

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